An interesting point/counterpoint on Mitt Romney and lying
Point - Jonathon Chait: Mitt Romney Lies a Lot, But He’s Not a Liar:
Psychologists have a concept called “the fundamental attribution error.” Essentially it means that people tend to view their own behavior as a result of circumstances, while viewing others’ behavior as a reflection of their inherent traits. So, for instance, if we see another car making a driving mistake, we think, “that driver is an idiot,” while if we make a mistake ourselves we think we were distracted or sleepy.
This is a useful prism through which to understand Mitt Romney’s propensity to lie. He says lots of things that are obviously false and that he clearly knows to be false – particularly, but not exclusively, about his own record. But it’s not clear that this tells us anything about Romney’s character. Lying is what politicians do when the truth stands between them and their goals. I don’t mean to completely dismiss the role of character here. Some politicians are more comfortable lying than are others. But circumstance plays a powerful role.
It’s Romney’s bad luck that fate has dictated his only path to the presidency lies in being a huge liar. First, he was a Republican running in a heavily Democratic state, which forced him to shade his abortion views rightward, and present himself generally as moderate to progressive, ideologically. After having had to shade his views as far left as he could get away with to win in Massachusetts, he had to obtain the Republican nomination in 2008, making himself acceptable to a dramatically more conservative electorate. And then, four years later, he has had to make himself acceptable to a Republican electorate that has moved further right still.
tldr; Chait’s argument is that Romney’s a weasel, not a liar. It’s not pathological, it’s strategic.
Counterpoint - Paul Waldman: More on Mitt Romney’s Lies:
Is Mitt Romney a guy who tells a bunch of lies, or is he a liar? That the question Jonathan Chait asks, and he winds up sort-of defending Romney, saying that his lies, many of which revolve around his effort to deny his own history, have been practical in nature. “It’s Romney’s bad luck that fate has dictated his only path to the presidency lies in being a huge liar,” Chait says, so those lies don’t tell us much about what’s deep in Romney’s character.
There are two problems here. The first is that Romney lies about President Obama as often as he lies about himself. It’s just that when he does the former, he does it with actual squirming (if he’s sitting down), the phoniest smile you’ve ever seen, and panic in his eyes, so it’s really obvious. The second problem is that Chait’s distinction applies to pretty much every political liar in history. There’s always a reason why a politician lies. The biggest lies come when they get caught doing something they shouldn’t have (Nixon with Watergate, Reagan with Iran-Contra, Clinton with Monica Lewinsky). They might be telling themselves, “Taking responsibility is all well and good, but it’s better for the country if I get out of this scandal and continue with my duties.”
In fact, saving one’s own skin, whether from scandal or the displeasure of the party base, is a near-universal motivation for politicians’ lies. In Romney’s case, what he got caught doing wasn’t trading arms for hostages or getting serviced by a young intern, but supporting abortion rights and health care reform, which to the people whose votes he’s now seeking are sins even more deplorable. I’d argue that Romney’s lies about Obama (see here for some ) are the worse ones, because it wasn’t like some reporter backed him into a corner and he was grasping at straws to keep primary voters from hating him. He could make a critique of Obama that’s just as persuasive without making things up, but he chooses not to, fairly regularly.
tldr; Who fucking cares why he lies? All lies, with the exception of lies of grandiosity, are strategic. In any case, the end result is the same — he wants you to believe things that aren’t true. He’s lying. He’s a liar.
I’m going to go ahead and give this round to Waldman.